We were in a conversation with Sarah Sham the founder of Esajees Atelier. She is a charming woman with high ambitions and is also a pet parent to a dog and a cat, between whom she juggles her time at home. The interior design arm of Essajees, a 106-year-old company, Essajees Atelier was established in 2014 by Sarah as an independent design practice founded on the legacy and ethos of the Essajees brand. Up there among Mumbai’s best, Essajees deals with art, antiques, and collectibles apart from custom-made flooring and high-end furniture.
It is a small team of very dedicated professionals who ensure that every project is overseen with detail, care, and utmost personal attention. Since its inception four years ago, Essajees Atelier has successfully completed 35 residential and commercial projects.
Having garnered experience in high-end furniture manufacturing and production during a five-year stint with Essajees, Sarah realized that interior design was her calling after which she went on to complete a two-year degree on the subject from Rachna Sansad. She completed the course as the top-ranked among a batch of 110 students, with a First Class First Distinction among many other accolades for projects through the duration of the degree
When we asked her how she chose the career she said “I actually had an early client that had a lot of faith in me and asked me to help design her 16,000 sqft home with her. That started out my career and my love for interior design grew from there. I did a course simultaneously to strengthen my knowledge and technical skills.”
Carrying forward the family legacy wasn’t an easy task. She told us that it was really tough! “I fought it for a long time and I actually did a whole bunch of different jobs before I took up my family business, but eventually it was my calling and I knew it was the right fit for me.”
Keen on learning the nuances and finest details on interior design, Sarah traveled to Los Angeles where she spent time at Erika Brunson Couture Living. She has also worked as an art consultant for private clients with the gallery Lansdowne House, putting together extensive portfolios of contemporary Indian art for homes and offices in India and abroad. A stint with Saffron Art gave Sarah the chance to work with a team in putting together a compilation of the best paintings of legendary artist, SH Raza.
When asked about how academics and work experience in the UK and US is different from working with Indian professionals, she replied with a smile and told us “it’s a completely different world working abroad and working in India. For all the unprofessional behavior we have in India, it must be said that there’s an amazing amount of work that is happening in India and it’s a market that is growing so fast and so well that it’s a great place to be. However, one thing that I wish we could change here about the work culture in my job is that when working in Interior Design abroad, the interior designer was only responsible for the design. All the drawings were given off to the contractor and then the designer actually only checked in 2-3 times during the life of the execution. Here in India, the designer is expected to also act as a contractor and check up every single day on a project with the contractor as there are very few professional contractors around which makes it quite difficult to work sometimes.”
Having a long list of clientele including Reliance Group, Taj Hotels India and the Birla family, etc already in your bag, we asked her what’s next in your cart? “I wish I knew! I would really love to do a heritage project in a beautiful old space and give it my own spin. I’m open to anything exciting at this point though.”
She’s humble and down to earth. Having won major design awards, she still believes she has a long road ahead and working hard is her only mantra.
Our next question was to ask her about her famous and successful project, 266 The Wine Room, Mumbai; its concept and the reason for its super success? To this, she said “Clients are the reason for success! Honestly, the clients were like something out of a fairy tale. They still are my favorite clients to date, even 35 projects later. Once we showed the clients out FIRST brief and view of the space, they signed off on the project immediately and they didn’t change or question any of our decisions even though we were such a young design firm. This was the complete game changer and this is what made the project successful- I was given a chance to express myself without any interference and any changes and that really made this project something I am proud of. It’s rare to find clients that trust you like this.”
She is currently working on “15” which is going on right now, holiday homes in Goa, a Bollywood directors home, a 4 floor retail store, a few office projects, one more restaurant and an incredible 5500 sqft gym in Bandra with a UK based gym chain.
We asked her about the current trends and she replied by saying that “We are living in an amazing time where clients are very well traveled and they have access to all the best design thanks to the internet. We as designers really need to keep evolving and staying on our toes to keep up with international trends and really be better than what’s out there on Pinterest, Houzz, and Instagram.”
As for DIY tips, her favorite is paint jobs in furniture, videos of which are there on youtube.